A Sting Exclusive: “Leading by example! EU must push for UN deal to avoid dangerous climate change”, European Parliament Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek cries out from Brussels

Ulrike LUNACEK

Mrs Ulrike Lunacek is Vice president of the European Parliament and MEP forGreens/European Free Alliance

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Ulrike Lunacek, Vice president of the European Parliament and MEP Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/Austria).

The climate-change impacts are already visible in natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans. The latest Assessment Report (5AR) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has presented unequivocal evidence to demonstrate climate warming and that human activities are the dominant cause of observed climate change since the middle of the 20th century. From 2000 to 2010, global greenhouse gas emissions were the highest in human history. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes to the land, atmosphere and oceans in all regions of the globe and in all countries.

Scientists predict that without significant global mitigation action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global average temperature is likely to be as much as 4 or 5°C higher by 2080.

The UNFCCC climate summit in Paris will be a rare and crucial opportunity for the world to move forward and speed up the ongoing transformation to a zero carbon future. Although every country will have to contribute to the effort to reduce their climate impact, the EU has to step up its ambition to ensure the future UN climate agreement, a Paris Protocol, is sealed in December and is up to the challenge of maintaining climate change to well below 2°C. As Greens, we are concerned that the EU risks being a bystander at COP21 if it does not up its game.

The EU’s 2030 climate change targets are acknowledged to be low on ambition. The headline figure of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% is already far below what is necessary, both to limit global warming to 2 degrees and to spur the green economy. A positive signal from the EU that it is willing to increase this ambition depending on an agreement at the COP21 would provide some momentum and impetus for the Paris talks.

Long-term emissions goals will be a key issue at the COP21. We need to be phasing out carbon globally by 2050 and moving to zero emissions to prevent dangerous climate change. The EU should join the other countries calling for this in the UN negotiations. Simply aligning the EU’s position with that of the G7 (a global reduction of emissions between 40-70% by 2050) is out of sync with the EU’s goal of limiting the global increase in temperature to below 2°C.

Finance for assisting developing countries most affected by climate change will be another crucial factor in agreement at the COP21. If the EU is to try and positively influence the outcome, we need to both deliver on commitments up to 2020 but also commit to fair and predictable scale of public climate aid beyond 2020. The Paris Protocol also needs to lay down the global phase-out of all carbon emissions and phase-in of 100% renewable energy by 2050. Parties need to make a collective commitment to shift public support (finance and policy) away from fossil fuels towards climate resilience and universal and fair access to sustainable energy.

And the agreement must provide for a regular review process to keep track of scientific advances and adequacy of climate action, as well as the fairness of those commitments.

Uniform rules for monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions need to be agreed in Paris to ensure that the implementation of national contributions is transparent and quantifiable.

The Paris Protocol needs to establish adequate and predictable international climate finance for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries as well as a functioning mechanism to address loss and damage. The agreement should mandate IMO and ICAO to set up measures with effect by 2021 to curb climate impacts of aviation and shipping, in line with the scale and urgency of the climate challenge.

We Greens call on the EU as the largest donor to act collectively and use revenues from sources that are independent from Member States’ annual budgetary procedures, such as ETS auction revenues and financial transaction tax. Revenues from market based instruments to reduce global aviation and shipping emissions should be dedicated to contributing to post 2020 international climate finance and the Green Climate Fund.

According to the 5AR, I mentioned above, global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2015 at the latest, and need to be reduced by an annual rate of around 6% in order to maintain a likely chance of keeping the rise in global average temperature below 2°C. The EU must be consistent with a linear reduction pathway towards the objective of phasing out carbon emissions by 2050 and therefore increase its own 2030 climate target to 60%. The respect, protection and promotion of human rights are prerequisite for effective global climate action. This encompasses i.a. gender equality, full and equal participation of women, and the active promotion of a just transition of the workforce creating decent work and quality jobs for all.

Delaying actions will only increase costs and reduce options to limit the disastrous impacts of climate change. Leading by example is the only way the EU will encourage all countries make an adequate contribution. Increasing Europe’s climate ambition can benefit the EU as well as drive a race to the top encouraging other countries to step up their climate efforts.

The UNFCCC climate summit in Paris will be a rare and crucial opportunity for the world to move forward and speed up the ongoing transformation to a zero carbon future.

Although every country will have to contribute to the effort to reduce their climate impact, the EU has to step up its ambition to ensure the future UN climate agreement, a Paris Protocol, is sealed in December and is up to the challenge of maintaining climate change to well below 2°C. As Greens, we are concerned that the EU risks being a bystander at COP21 if it does not up its game. Leading by example is the only way the EU will encourage all countries make an adequate contribution.

About the author

Ulrike Lunacek is Vice president of the European Parliament; MEP (Greens/Austria) since 2009; Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Substitute in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; Co-President of the LGBTI Intergroup of the EP; 

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